Murder of housewife still unsolved after 6 years

03/21/2008 2:45 PM

10/20/2014 10:43 AM

This story was published in The Modesto Bee on March 27, 1994

Six years ago a killer slipped unnoticed into a north Modesto home, took a knife from the kitchen and slashed the throat of a 32-year-old housewife and mother who lived in the house.

The slaying, which occurred during the early morning of March 25, 1988, has become one of Modesto's most notorious unsolved murders.

Deborah Ann "Debi" Whitlock was stabbed several times in the neck before the assailant cut her throat.

Whitlock's 3-year-old daughter, Courtney, slept unharmed through the attack in a bedroom just a few feet from where her mother was slain.

As the years pass and the killer remains unidentified, the clues and leads have dwindled to almost nothing.

A $6,000 reward also hasn't helped police find witnesses or develop information about the murder or the assailant.

Investigators at one point even called in a criminal psychic to help, but to no avail.

Detective Bill Grogan, who is now assigned to the case, said investigators continue to work on the case whenever they get a new lead. He said the investigation won't be closed until the killer or killers are arrested and convicted.

The dead woman's mother, Jacque MacDonald, continues to keep the case alive by talking to television producers and news reporters.

The TV program "America's Most Wanted" featured a segment on the unsolved murder. The show generated more than 200 tips, but none panned out.

The case also was featured on "Missing Reward." MacDonald has appeared on many local and national television talk shows, including "Sally Jessy Raphael." A magazine article about the killing appeared in Women's World a few years ago.

MacDonald said she wants justice done for her daughter's death. But she doesn't want the killer, when caught and convicted, to be executed.

"I don't want the death penalty for the killer. I just want the killer or killers to spend the rest of their lives in prison and not be able to hurt anyone else," she said.

MacDonald believes the killer may be someone who knew her daughter.

Police said there was no forced entry by the killer to get into the Whitlocks' single-story, three-bedroom home at the 1500 block of Dalton Way. The killer didn't ransack the home, and the only things taken were Debi Whitlock's purse, credit cards and house keys.

The keys were found the next day in a neighbor's yard. Police believe the killer may have thrown the keys away while fleeing.

Whitlock's purse has never turned up and not one of her credit cards has ever been used.

The victim's husband, Harold C. Whitlock, was attending a friend's bachelor party when his wife was murdered. Whitlock found the body when he returned home at 5:40 a.m., police reported.

The knife used to kill Whitlock was found near her body.

Investigators said Harold Whitlock has been ruled out as a suspect.

Harold Whitlock and his 9-year-old daughter live in Oregon and he has remarried.

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